If you’ve ever had chickenpox, you are at risk of shingles. Why? Shingles, also known
as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that occurs when varicella zoster (or
the chickenpox virus) is reactivated within your body. The virus needs to already be present for you to develop this condition.
Reactivation is commonly the result of stress, illness, or decreasing immunity. Shingles itself is not contagious, meaning you can’t “catch” shingles from someone who
is actively experiencing it. However, a person who has never had chickenpox and is exposed to someone with an active shingles infection may develop chickenpox.
Roughly 30% of all Canadians develop shingles, with most episodes occurring after the age of 50. Shingles typically presents as a painful, red, blister-like rash that affects one side of the body. If you suspect that you are experiencing an episode of shingles, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Initiation of anti-viral medication within the first 72 hours lowers the risk of future complications such as post- shingles pain.
People over 50 years of age should get vaccinated, irrespective of their history with either chickenpox or shingles, as this is the best method of prevention. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine in Canada. Shingrix is recommended for both those previously vaccinated with the older Shingles vaccine and those unlucky enough to have already experienced an episode, (as long as one year has passed since your last vaccination/episode).
Shingrix is a two-dose vaccine, with doses given two to sixth months apart. This vaccine has an adjuvant, or substance that helps activate the immune system, which can increase soreness in the arm that receives the vaccination. But trust me, It’s worth the pain— talk to your pharmacist today.
More Knowledge: Check out this insightful article on if terminally ill patients should have access to psilocybin to help with pain.
Author: Heather Cross is a certified geriatric pharmacist, she’s been working as a licensed pharmacist since 2009. Heather is a regular contributor to Silver Magazine and our sister publication Optimyz.